Navigate: A Webinar series for college parents

Program Description

The Navigate Webinar Series at Auburn University serves as a communication tool to inform parents and family members of campus resources to help support their students. Although many parents and family members attend orientation, the feedback is always that it feels like there is so much information in such a short amount of time. Colleagues across campus also wish they had more time to explain their services to guests of orientation better.

Seeing this problem, Parent and Family Programs collaborated with First Year Experience to host a monthly Facebook Live webinar series for parents and family members throughout the fall and spring semesters. Each webinar partners with a campus department to further explain resources available to students. The session concludes with a staff or student panel and Q&A to show the student perspective and how utilizing resources from this department has impacted their Auburn Experience. 

Chris Landy, assistant director of First Year Experience at Auburn University says of the webinar, "Our goal is to give parents and family members the tools necessary to guide their students to be successful and overcome common obstacles such as building community on campus, managing academic planning, and understanding how college students continue to develop."

Through this webinar, Parent and Family Programs has partnered with 15 departments across campus to host 16 webinars. We've found that this format of presentation for families helps departments better connect with this constituency. Webinars also further inform parents and family members of the many resources available to their students and how to share them with their student in a timely manner.

How-to incorporate on your campus
Auburn is fortunate to have a university-wide contract with Zoom, virtual meeting, and webinar software platform. Through this platform, we can display PowerPoints, share screens, and display videos all while broadcasting to Facebook Live on the Parents' Association page. Because both of these resources are free to our departments, this program is no cost to either unit. Though we can incorporate Zoom, if a presenter does not have a PowerPoint presentation, we can broadcast directly through Facebook Live. Another benefit to Facebook Live is that the recording of the presentation stays accessible for folks after the live broadcast and comments can continue.

Setting the schedule of presenters is also key. We have found the most success with areas parents and family members have the most questions. We set our format to be a 20-minute max presentation, followed by Q&A from the live viewers. 

It took a long time to find the best platform to conduct Navigate. We initially only held sessions through Zoom, but we saw parents and families had a difficult time learning how to work the platform. This lack of understanding affected our viewership throughout the first year of Navigate. It was not until we tapped into additional viewers by expanding to Facebook Live that our reach broadened, we enhanced the conversation during the session, and created an easily accessible outlet for family members to connect and get to know our offices.

A second challenge is not over-asking campus partners to participate. We find that families enjoy hearing from the same departments, but we try to space them out as much as possible. We understand the time that goes into creating a presentation and presenting and do not want to over-ask colleagues to present.

The last challenge we see is finding the best time of day to host the session. Our highest attended live sessions are on Sunday nights, but we only do this for the pre-orientation session hosted by our offices. We would never ask a campus colleague to come in on the weekend, so we found our best time to be over the lunch hour. We have students from all over the country and world who attend Auburn, so we also recognize that just because it is noon in Auburn, it may only be 9 a.m. on the Pacific Coast. Because of this, we ask each presenter to bring five frequently asked questions to supplement questions we may receive in real-time. Many of our views take place after the live presentation concludes.

Camp War Eagle is Auburn University’s official orientation program for all incoming freshmen and their parents and families. Last year, we saw nearly 10,500 guests throughout the summer, so it is critical that we provide information in multiple formats. Utilizing the Navigate platform, Parent and Family Programs and First Year Experience were able to reach hundreds of parents and family members for a “What to expect at Camp War Eagle” presentation. In May of 2018, this session alone had nearly 5,000 individual viewers. 

While the primary purpose of this program was to share logistical details of our program, we learned over the summer months that its reach was much more than that. During our parent orientation program, dozens of family members noted to our Head Parent Counselors featured in the video, and to our professional staff members that they felt much more at ease with their students’ transitions to Auburn. These parents shared that their concerns decreased, and many knew that their family was making the right choice. Navigate has allowed Parent and Family Programs and First Year Experience to virtually welcome new members to the Auburn Family and to continue to build a support system for incoming students and their families before they arrive on campus and throughout their transition.

Though families enjoy a variety of presentations, we’ve found the most success in the Q&A portion of the presentation when there is a call to action or a next-step. We’ve seen similar (though smaller) numbers as the pre-Camp War Eagle presentation for other sessions focused on the details and logistics of an upcoming program including transfer student orientation, fall move-in, and Fall Family Weekend.

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